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The 1st meeting of the Council for Ethics in Politics

(online via Zoom)

2:00 PM London time on Thursday the 28th of July 2022


Theme: Change starts within

 Chair: Hon. Bridget Masango MP, President of the GCPR

Introductory Talk

Nurul Mozumder

Global Council for Political Renewal (GCPR)



Thank you, Hon. Chair, Bridget Masango MP. Thank you everyone.


The Global Council for Political Renewal (GCPR) was born on the 31st of March 2022. In nearly 4 months, a significant number of political leaders at all levels around the world have joined us. But the more important thing is I believe that most of you have joined us with a good intention - for a good cause. I appreciate your courage. It is a long journey. It has been challenging and will remain challenging. So, I would encourage you to take a long-term perspective, be patient and stay together.


We shall focus on different priorities at different stages of our journey. Currently, our focus is on bringing together political leaders at all levels around the world. We are emphasizing on the internal harmony, cooperation and commitment. We are not raising money now primarily because we are not doing anything that needs a significant amount of money. Please do not worry too much about the position, outcome or impact. These may come from sources that you cannot imagine now. We are creating the organization for many years to come. Please stay together and try to build connection and trust.


Politics is a social phenomenon. The process evolves. Almost everything - our world, kingdom, life, wealth, pride, ego, power, position, etc. - will end one day. But our connection with the higher power, good deeds and struggle for these will remain. In life (and politics), compromises and mistakes are almost inevitable. But the key question is: why do we make the compromises or mistakes? What is the intention behind these? Individuals have to comprehend and decide. It is the challenge for most of us.


The sources, contexts and perception of morality (and reality) may vary from time to time and from society to society. But the fundamental essence of mankind - our strengths, weaknesses, purpose and destination - have not changed. Diversity is a great wisdom. Look around and contemplate. You may realize it. The point is: should we focus on the points of contention, or the points of agreement? Should we focus on changing everything, everyone, or changing ourselves? The key is the beginning of the journey and struggle for it. Sometimes it is one step ahead and two steps back. But the journey continues. So, let us begin the journey.


Thank you. God bless you all!

The Task of Politics within Morals

Professor Christoph Lumer

University of Siena, Italy




Moral philosophical perspective: I am a moral philosopher or ethicist, not a politician. In this talk I would like to speak about the task of politics in the field of morality from a moral philosophical perspective.

Changing morality made of complex instruments: Many people, including some moral philosophers, think morality consists of moral norms like: 'Thou shalt not lie or cheat!' 'Thou shalt not hurt anyone!' 'Thou shalt be helpful to those in need!' etc. And such norms are simply there naturally. But both assumptions are wrong. For one thing, the system of morality is actually much more complex, encompassing many more kinds of things, and it reaches much further into our actions and social structure. For another, morality is not simply there; it changes historically, or more precisely: we humans create and change it historically.

The two parts of the system of morality: But let's be more specific. According to a basic idea, shared in most philosophical ethics, the system of morality consists of two major parts. The first part is the system of moral evaluation, i.e. it is primarily criteria for how we should morally evaluate; in addition, there are exemplary evaluations of many individual objects and states. (Ideally, these evaluation criteria are shared by all people or all members of a society and then form the basis for communal action. In fact, of course, this is not so. But in many social decisions, we do strive to place them on a broadly shared basis of values.) The second part of the system of morality consists of social norms, virtues, but also public institutions such as the judiciary or political decision-making systems and the executive. In general, one can say that the second part of the system of morality consists of instruments that serve to realise moral values in the world, to create moral good and to prevent moral bad, i.e. to improve the world morally.

Welfare ethical moral evaluation criteria: Let us first look at moral values and evaluation criteria. The most important conceptions of moral evaluations today are welfare-ethical. The moral value – or as ethicists also say: the moral desirability – of an object, e.g. an action or a social norm, is composed of the individual utilities of this object for all those affected by it. In the simplest case, namely in utilitarianism, the individual utilities are simply added up: Some people have advantages from the object, others may have disadvantages because of it, all this is added up. In the case of more differentiated evaluation criteria, aspects of distributive justice are also taken into account when aggregating the individual utilities into an overall moral evaluation, e.g. in prioritarianism, improvements for people who are badly off are given greater weight in this aggregation. The resulting aggregated desirability is thus the moral or social desirability; one also says that this moral desirability is the general good. The advantage of this kind of evaluation is that it captures everything that has value for anyone, namely everything that is relevant to any individual about the object. The other advantage is that these moral evaluations also capture only what is of value to someone; thus obscure values such as something being for the good of the nation or pleasing to the gods are ignored. Moreover, these types of evaluations can take into account aspects of distributive justice such as whether someone is particularly disadvantaged and should therefore be given priority for additional benefits.

Instruments for the realisation of moral values: The rest of my talk will deal with the moral instruments for the realisation of moral values. The most common of these instruments are moral norms. Moral norms are social norms that are morally good. Thereby, social norms are rules of action that are largely generally followed in a community and whose known non-observance is usually punished. These norms and punishments can be formal, legal; the punishments will then be imposed by agents specifically authorised to do so – from verbal warnings to the death penalty. And the norms and punishments can be informal; the punishments will then be imposed by any people interested in the functioning of the norm – from frowning to lynching. As said: Such social norms are only moral if their social validity is morally good, i.e. if they are classified as morally comparatively good instruments according to the moral evaluation criteria. Then they also constitute moral duties: That is, someone has a moral duty to do an action precisely when this is commanded by a morally good socially valid norm. Moral norms, however, are not the only instruments for the realisation of moral values; morally good institutions are also part of this, from good political decision-making systems to morally good, socially organised health care to kindergartens.

Moral progressivism: Such instruments for the realisation of moral values are not fixed, but evolve historically. The historical tendency of this dynamic is that with these instruments more and more areas of our lives are moralised and improved: less violence, more protection of rights, more care, etc. However, these instruments for the realisation of moral values do not come into being and maintain themselves by themselves. Rather, people have deliberately invented such instruments, proposed and implemented them in the form of social reforms: in discussions with their fellow human beings, political campaigns and struggles, in parliamentary votes, but also, for example, by setting a good example and anticipating morally good norms that are not yet in force. In addition, many make efforts to maintain and support these instruments, for example by informally punishing the transgression of moral norms or reporting them to the authorities, educating others about the meaning of these norms.

Types of moral actions: In addition to the moral duty to follow morally good social norms, there are thus two classes of morally important actions here that are usually overlooked: 1. moral-political commitment to improving the instruments for realising moral values and 2. support for moral institutions. These types of actions cannot be moral duties in the narrower sense just defined because there is no corresponding socially general action and no sanction pressure behind them. Rather, there is here only a moral recommendation and demand to act in this way, which is motivationally based predominantly on moral insight and moral commitment. These moral recommendations apply to all people.

Primary task of politicians: But these recommendations apply especially to politicians. In complexly organised societies, politicians are at the switching points for reforming or abolishing old norms and establishing new ones and social institutions, but also for the general maintenance of existing norms. Their task in the system of morality is then to use this formative and supportive potential to morally improve the moral instruments for enforcing moral values. In other words, they shall enforce and maintain morally better norms and institutions. (Of course, when it comes to questions of personal behaviour, politicians should also lead by example. But that, morally speaking, is not their main task; rather, their main task is moral politics.)

Moral evaluation: What should politicians do more precisely? How should they decide? First of all, they need to morally evaluate potential new measures using the moral evaluation criteria mentioned earlier and thus determine which of them are morally how good, which are better than others. The next step is seemingly to seek to enforce the morally best measures. But it is not that simple, there are at least two limitations here.

Social feasibility of the measures: Firstly, for all citizens moral commitment is always in competition with their personal prudential interests; they are only prepared to make a certain moral commitment. For politicians, this means that they should try to push through the morally best among those measures that are socially feasible, i.e. that are supported by the population; in democratic societies, the re-election of politicians also depends on this. In addition, they can and should try to push the limits of the feasible moral good through appropriate contributions to the discussion.

Limited budget for universalistic projects: Secondly, all action, including moral-political action, is socially situated: We live in social environments for which we have a special moral responsibility. The moral evaluation criteria outlined above are universalistic; for them, all people count equally. If we always try to realise what is universalistically morally best, then in richer countries, for example, there is the danger that most of the morally very good measures would have to be realised outside one's own country, in poorer countries, because there the moral efficiency is greater, one therefore can achieve more of the morally good there than in one's own country through good investments. In this respect, there are limits to universalistic moral commitment, on the one hand, due to the special responsibility towards one's own community and, on the other hand, again due to the limits of the willingness in the population to support such universalistic measures. This means that only a part of the budget of moral commitment can and should flow into truly universalistic projects, as much as the population is willing to contribute. Here, too, politicians can and should – in addition to decisions on the budget of moral commitment – still try to push the limits of the feasible moral universalistic good through appropriate contributions to the discussion.

Why the Need for Ethics in Politics 

(Presentation Notes)


Professor (Emeritus) Suleman Dangor

University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa




  • There are 29 political conflicts currently in the world

  • It is estimated that there are over 100 million forcibly-displaced people globally due to conflicts

  • Over 50% of those killed in conflicts are civilians

  • The need for peace is axiomatic

  • The factors responsible for conflicts are many and diverse  

  • Unethical behaviour is a common denominator in most conflicts around the world. 


  • Ethics is defined as the sense of moral principles that direct one’s behavior and define what is considered as right and wrong

  • An ethical person is one who acts in accordance with the relevant moral values, norms [of the law]

  • Unethical behaviour is an action that falls outside of what is considered morally right or proper for the person



  • Ethics in politics makes laws aimed at the attainment of ultimate good for individuals and the society

  • Ethics can contribute to make society peaceful, harmonious and a better place to live by guiding people’s behavior

  • ethical leaders can influence their followers to be ethical in their conduct



  • The primary role of politicians is to serve the public interest with ethical awareness and ethical action

  • Unfortunately, self-interest is a common feature among politicians 

  • This obsession with self-interest invariably results in unethical behaviour



  • Unethical behaviour covers a wide range [politics, law, society]

  • In politics, a prominent feature of unethical behaviour is corruption  

  • The focus of this presentation is on corruption in politics  



Tax evasion, nepotism, looting the national treasury, political bribery, unequal distribution of government contracts, unjust financing of political parties, unjust election administration, use of espionage, secret police and intimidation, embezzlement and misappropriation of property, patronage       



  • It impacts the implementation of the rule of law and democratic values.

  • It takes funding away from important infrastructure investments such as roads, schools and hospitals

  • It leads to a lack of public trust in government

  • It leads to disrespect for the rule of law

  • It erodes trust in public institutions 

  • It contributes to an environment in which other human rights abuses can occur with impunity, such as mass arrests and detention, torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment.



A major challenge to implement ethical behaviour in politics is the lack of consensus on the role of ethics in politics

  • The following four approaches have been identified:

  1. Cynicism: ethics has no place in politics

  2. Scepticism: hesitancy to apply ethics in politics

  3. Pragmatism: ethics can contribute added value to politics

  4. Moralism: ethical values should be the goal of politics



  • In a globalised world ethics in politics cannot be based only on one cultural or religious tradition – countries and communities are inter-dependent

  • The solution is to identify shared or common values in relation to politics

  • The following have been identified as primary shared values : truthfulness, honesty, integrity, fairness, trustworthiness, concern for others/objectivity, accountability, openness, etc. 



The personal character of politicians is paramount. Even an ideal political   system will not succeed in preventing unethical behaviour if politicians are not guided by ethical/moral values.     



The recognition of corruption [abuse of entrusted power for private gain] as a violation of basic human rights is a positive development.



Ethics in Politics could lead to a more just world which in turn could contribute to much-needed peace in a conflict-ridden world.      

Practitioner’s Perspective

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Former Minister of Home Affairs of South Africa

Founder And President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party



Our Co-Chairs, the Hon. Ms Bridget Masango MP, President of the Global Council for Political Renewal, and the Hon. Minister Losaline Ma’asi MP, Chairperson of the Council for Ethics in Politics; Dr Nurul Mozumder; Professor Christoph Lumer and Professor Emeritus Suleman Dangor; the Hon. Dr Jon Gerrard MLA; political leaders, academics and thought leaders from around the world.


When the President of the Global Council invited me to speak today, I knew immediately that this forum holds the potential to change the way politics is developing in the present global context; and I was deeply encouraged.


Having been a Member of Parliament since South Africa achieved liberation in 1994, and having served as our first democratic Minister of Home Affairs for ten years, I have had a front row seat to the evolution of politics in our country – from the politics of liberation, to the politics of governance, and now the politics of power.


There is a definite shift away from ethics in leadership and it is fundamentally undermining the hope for our future. South Africa has been plagued by a barrage of political scandals, from State capture to corruption and abuse of power. Our last two Presidents did not fulfil their terms of office, but were recalled by the ruling Party. Our sitting President now has a cloud hanging over his head too, the details of which I am sure you are all well aware.


But this is not the time or the place to go into the pervasive depths of rot that have infected the governance of my beloved country, for this forum is one of providing hope. And there is hope. It is represented in every individual in this virtual space, merely by virtue of your interest in ethics in politics.


In light of our theme, “Change Starts Within”, I must say how impressed I am that the Council for Ethics in Politics is looking at how we can each contribute a little more and a little better not only to our country and community, but also to our families.


When one enters public service, the idea of work/life balance goes right out the window. The demands on one’s time, resources and energy are just overwhelming, simply because the need that exists among those whom we serve is never-ending.


As a Christian, I am often reminded of Christ’s words to His disciples: “You have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” This is not a suggestion that we should give up hope and stop trying to meet the vast ocean of needs, but that we need to be wise in how we tackle it, not exhausting our own inner resources or sacrificing our closest relationships on the altar of public service.


We all need to take that time to be introspective, for it is in those moments that we regain true perspective on why we do what we do, and whether we are doing it to the full potential of our ability, or stretching ourselves so thin that we are not being genuinely effective in any area.


I find that particularly in this digital era in which communication is instant and a response is expected immediately, there is little time to ponder and reflect on values. The “why” behind what we are doing is important. Much more important than the simple act of getting something done.


The pressure to meet needs, to meet them immediately and to gain as much publicity in the process, is exhausting. It becomes terribly easy to shift one’s focus away from the primary goal of serving, to the pressing need to stay ahead of one’s opponents. It is a sad reality of politics that making one’s opponent look bad is considered as effective as actually doing something worthwhile.


I have never understood that kind of gutter politics, but I have been at the receiving end of it countless times. I am likely one of the most vilified politicians of my generation; so much so that when President Nelson Mandela announced that he was appointing me Acting President of the Republic on the very first occasion that both he and Deputy President Mbeki were due to be out of the country, the grumblings from within his own Cabinet were audible!


But he did it as an act of reconciliation. Because he knew that I had been unjustly treated by the party in which I had grown up and which I had faithfully served for so much of my life.


The African National Congress, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, was founded by my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, and I was a faithful comrade – to the point of accepting the mandate to work inside the homelands system in order to undermine it, and to the point of forming a membership-based organisation to reignite political mobilisation when the ANC and other political parties were banned.


Yet in April 2002, former President Mandela admitted in an interview that the ANC had done everything in its power to separate me from my support base when my popularity began to threaten future hegemony. Madiba said, and I quote, “We used every ammunition to destroy him, but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”


Madiba, in that moment of appointing me Acting President – placing the country into my hands – was perhaps giving the perfect example of change starting from within. It takes acts of reconciliation, acts of bravery, acts of ethical leadership, to change the trajectory of politics.


It is my hope that the global political leaders of today will begin to look beyond the hashtags and the Twitter feeds and the point-scoring, to re-evaluate why they serve. For some, the reason may not be philanthropic. It may not even be ethical. But coming face to face with an honest answer of why we do what we do can be the beginning of a journey towards doing what is right and just and good.


May each of us embark upon that journey, repeatedly, at every stage of our lives.


I thank you.

Ethics and Politics – Charting a course forward – Measuring Ethical Behaviour


Dr. Jon Gerrard

MLA-River Heights

Winnipeg, Manitoba


Greetings everyone.  Many years ago Lloyd Axworthy, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada, told me that you can not legislate ethical behaviour.  It must come from within.  We must build ethics into the political framework so it is understood that if you go into politics you must be ethical.  This is far from where we are today.  We need renewal. Improving ethical behaviour is essential to address public cynicism towards politicians and to have greater trust in government.


If our goal is to achieve political renewal with a more ethical politics as the centrepiece, change must start from within and we must have a better understanding of and ability to measure what is ethical behaviour – what Professor Lumer called moral evaluation. 


In the multilevel trust-based model of ethical leadership, several qualities are recognized as important.These include fairness, trust, integrity, honesty and accountability. Competency and integrity are also important for trustworthiness. Governments and/or individuals could be rated on each of these qualities, and then the ratings totalled to give a measure of ethical performance.  This would be one approach to assessing ethical behaviour in politics.


There is a complementary approach. Ethical behaviour can be described in terms of the policies and actions of governments with respect to addressing poverty and those who are marginalized or to supporting human rights, education and research and peaceful development as well as addressing global issues like climate change.


We can ask, does a more ethical behaviour mean primarily the absence of corruption?  Or does a more ethical behaviour mean policies which address poverty and advance human rights, equity and well being across our planet?  Does a more ethical behaviour mean advancing policies to address climate change and save our planet?  Does a more ethical world mean one in which we achieve greater peaceful respect and cooperation?  Hopefully, it means all of these. 


We have measures of economic performance – GDP for example.   We have measures of societal development – the United Nations Millenium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals are examples.  We must decide what are the specific goals we seek when it comes to advancing ethics in politics.  


In my view, achieving an ethical politics and government should be three layered including evaluating the ethical behaviour of individual politicians, of political parties and of governments. 


The evaluation should include both what politicians, parties and governments say and what they do and the gap between the two.   Being ethical is more than saying good words, it means taking good actions, with words and actions being in synchrony.   Actions surely represent the most valid assessment.   But words are important, and a divergence between words and actions is an indication of problematic ethical behaviour.


An evaluation should include four aspects

1) - assessing unethical behaviour including for example “lying” or “misuse of funds”.  The evaluation of methods of financing campaigns and the linkage to decision making is one area which is important.

2) – assessing the extent to which words and actions advance education, improve human rights, equity and health and decrease poverty 

3) – assessing the extent to which words and actions address global sustainability issues like climate change

4) – assessing words and actions which promote global peace and global cooperation.  


It must be recognized, as Professor Lumer said, ethics is complex.  A person may do well in one are and badly in another. Any evaluation needs to consider positives as well as negatives.


Measuring and reporting on ethical behaviour needs to be central to the reform of global politics.   Ethical behaviour is more than avoiding corruption. We must link ethics in politics with the other issues we are concerned with – human rights, education, the environment, equitable development and global peace.   Being honest but failing to address critical issues is not enough.  


Once we have general agreement as to the nature of ethics in politics we can advocate for better ethics as a central part of political reform, we can support those who are ethical, we can call out those who are not ethical and we can do this in a fair way.  We can then change the trajectory of politics and the world.


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